Allen Jackson - Daniel an Overcomer - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "The Battle in the Heavens". Folks, our earth is filled with battles. We've watched battles in the streets of Ukraine. We've watched political battles in the streets of Washington D.C., in the halls of Congress. I suspect there's some battles in the arena that is your life, whether they're in your home, or your business, or in your relationships. The most significant battles in our lives are the spiritual ones. If we understand them, and the nature of those conflicts, and how to be triumphant, it will change our journey through time. It will bring peace to us and hope. It'll bring the blessings of God. It will deliver us or protect us from the attacks of the enemy.
We're not gonna make our journey through life without the battles, but we can know how to make the journey triumphantly in the authority of our God and with his peace in our hearts. Now, that's a lesson I want to learn and it's a space where I want to learn how to live. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart. I believe the spirit of God has something for each of us today.
I want to pick up a new topic. I'd like to talk, God willing, for a few sessions about the battle in the heavens. And I don't want to define all those terms in this first session, but suffice it to say there's a battle taking place in the heavens. And I don't mean a battle between air forces and aircraft that we have put it into the air, but there's a spiritual battle that's taking place. And in so many ways, it defines what happens in our lives in time. Now, I realize that that is often a topic that makes us a little if not uncomfortable, sometimes we just prefer to avoid it. And in many church settings, we've just ignored it almost completely. But nevertheless, it's biblical and it's true. Spiritual forces are every bit as real as a virus, and we all understand how a virus can impact our lives and our world. You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't identify it, but you can certainly recognize its symptoms.
And spiritual forces are not revealed to us with our five senses, but they have the power to shape our lives both positively or negatively for time and eternity, and it's in our best interest to understand them. In this particular session, we're gonna focus on Daniel. He lived such the life of an overcomer in some very adverse circumstances that I think he's a wonderful invitation to this discussion. But I've mentioned Ukraine, but I don't wanna just leave it there. I want to invite you on a daily basis, multiple times a day, don't just watch the news and read your favorite information from the Internet. Whenever you're taking in information about the people of Ukraine, pray for the people of Ukraine. They don't have any place to run. They're being invaded by an expression of authoritarian ambition, which is evil. We may call it Russia, but there's something far more sinister than that. 'Cause I suspect if you allowed the people of Russia to vote, many of them would not vote to invade Ukraine. We see expressions of that, so something else is happening. There's other forces involved. It's too simplistic to think of it simply in terms of nation states.
Now, I don't know how you felt, but as I've watched reports this week, it leaves me feeling a bit queasy. Honestly, very uncomfortable. There's a sense that in some way, I think the United States and the global community didn't do our part. You know, just on behalf of our own nation, our behaviors in recent months have emboldened our adversaries in the world. And this isn't about political parties, because our leadership is... this is not along party lines. We've watched riots in our streets. In our streets with burning buildings, and looting, and police precincts being destroyed. And the response from a leadership level across our nation was a defunding of the police. That message is not lost on the world. If we're not willing to protect our own cities, and our own people, and our own neighborhoods, it's an open door. Our own civil rights have been diminished.
Again, the world has watched with mandates, and censorship, and forced closings of businesses and schools. We have diminished our strength as a people by disrupting our energy production, even forfeiting our energy independence. I mean, we were distracted from that a little bit with discussions of existential climate crisis. I don't think in Ukraine today that would be a seminar that would be well attended. You know, our productivity, often understood to be one of the great strengths of our nation, our productivity of our people, of our workforce has declined as we've watched that effective workforce be dismantled. And then you've moved beyond just those local circumstances. We left Afghanistan, abandoning, in many ways, our people and our allies that were on the ground there while we equipped the Taliban to become one of the most well-equipped fighting forces in the region.
And then we refuse to acknowledge the tactical mistakes of the retreat. And I promise you the world watched and understood. It wasn't just our streets, it was our outward-facing attitude towards the international community. And then we refused to enforce our southern border. And whether we're doing it intentionally or not, we're promoting drug cartels and human trafficking. We're demonstrating to the whole world that we lack the will to enforce our sovereignty as a nation. And again, this is not about a single political party. Our government in recent weeks has provided tacit support for a Canadian leader overwhelmed with a sense of authoritarian ambition himself. He didn't cross a border, but he turned the police loose on his citizens. And we were, for the most part, as a nation at least, unwilling to support those who were seeking freedom from the tyranny of outdated COVID mandates.
You see, I don't think, unless God intervenes, I don't believe we're finished with the authoritarian expressions of greed that we see in our world. In fact, I think we should not only be praying for the Ukrainian people, I think we should be praying for the people of Taiwan. I think something is unleashed in our world. I think it can be addressed. I think it can be reversed. God has intervened in history on many occasions. But I don't think President Xi in China has overlooked what's happening, and he certainly has no reluctance in his willingness to express his ambition to liberate Taiwan from their sense of democracy. We need God's help.
Really inadvertently, I found a note from a pastor who's a friend of ours. We have worked with them and supported them for many years in Belarus. And I was cleaning up some files just before service this evening and I found a note that Ghenna had sent at the end of 2020, so it's about a year and a half old. I thought it was relevant. He said, "Belarus", if you don't know Belarus on the map, it's adjacent to the Ukraine, on the border of Russia. "Belarus is not a stable state right now. Three weeks ago, we had a presidential election and Lukashenko said that he won, but people don't believe that and that's why hundreds of thousands of them are coming outside to protest. In the beginning, thousands of people were arrested and brutally beaten. At least six people died from that. After that, even more people started going out to protest".
This was the part that I thought is germane and to help us understand we have a role to play beyond governments, beyond the UN, don't be angry at the politicians. The church has a role to play. This is what he said, "The spirit of communism is still holding on in our country and it doesn't want to go away. We're praying and fasting a lot right now for our country and freedom".
See, I think we've had so much liberty and so much opportunity that we have the mistaken idea that the rest of the world lives with those things. And I believe one of the reasons we've been given them isn't just to enjoy them for ourselves and our families. I don't think that's wrong, but that we might be salt and light on behalf of the rest of the world. We can't be the world's police force, but if we're willing to stand for what is right and we take our liberties and freedoms and use them for righteousness, and godliness, and holiness, it becomes a force for good in the world. And if we fail on that assignment, and that's the assignment of the church. It's not the assignment of the politicians, or the academics, or the universities. We may be involved in those arenas, but it begins with the heart of the church. If we will take our place, we will see God move.
So please don't just watch the news and be angry at somebody that didn't make a decision you didn't like. That's the wrong response. Don't imagine that an election is going to fix this. Folks, our problems run deeper than elections. If we don't have a heart change, we'll continue to make choices that bring deterioration more swiftly. We have to have a fundamental heart change. And every time we see one of these shocks that rolls around the world, I feel like God is giving us yet another opportunity to humble ourselves, to remind us that we are more fragile than we imagine ourselves to be, that we cannot secure our futures, that only God can do that, and that the privileges we have we had better use for his purposes and his glory and not just for selfish indulgence or we will lose them.
And with that, I wanna pick up this idea of the battle in the heavens and I really, I want to start our discussion on this topic by inviting you to a new pattern of understanding, establishing a new habit. And I know that's not easy and it won't happen in a particular session or in a single week, but it can happen if we would make the decision that it was beneficial. In Matthew 6, Jesus is concluding his Sermon on the Mount, or at least he's in the midst of his Sermon on the Mount. And he's talking to the audience at this point about what they should be concerned about, about priorities in their life, not being consumed with what they'll wear, or eat, or where they'll live. He said, "Your Father knows that you need those things," but then he makes this statement, and it's a life-altering statement if the Spirit of God brings it alive within us. He said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". It's the ultimate priority statement.
You know, I read a lot and I listen to a lot of different things, and there's all sorts of motivational tools and business models, and they want access to your priorities, and your habits, and your routines, and your imagination, and what you can dream about. Well, I want to submit, as a Christ follower, we need to start with our Lord's instructions. He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all the other things God will add to your life". Now, we know the words. Many of you I'm sure could have quoted that verse, but I want to ask you to make room for it in your heart, to begin to build a new mindset with a "seek first" mindset.
You know, I think typically we seek first a physical solution, or a physical explanation, or a process that we're familiar with. And if we can manage it, or we can handle it, or we know how to resolve it, we don't seek the Lord about it. Or if it's something that we want, or something we've dreamt about, or something that we have held as something in our own ambition for ourselves, or our families, or someone we care about, we don't seek the Lord about it. It's what we want. We think it'll make us happy, or fulfilled, or content, and so we don't put it in the "Seek the Lord" bucket. Usually that bucket's reserved for crisis, for challenges, for hurdles, for hurts, for needs, for the unresolvable things, when I'm at the end of myself.
You know, when all else fails, we pray. But Jesus suggested a little different template, and you won't be able to put it in place because we've thought about it for a few minutes. We may put it in place and hold it for a bit, and we'll wander back off path. But you can re-center it again and say, "Lord, I'm sorry. Today, I didn't really seek you first. I kind of wandered through my day doing what I know to do and I didn't really listen to you, or ask for you, or ask for your perspective, or invite you into the midst. But I want to seek first your kingdom".
Folks, I don't believe what's in front of us we're gonna be able to negotiate in our own strength, in our own power, or our own ability. So the time to begin to exercise this faith muscle is now. The time to begin to develop this particular spiritual discipline it seems to me would be now. Don't wait until you're desperate, it's too difficult. If you haven't read your Bible and you haven't prayed, it's really difficult right now in Ukraine. Their daily Bible reading plan is not nearly as important as having put the Bible in their hearts every day. Jesus said it, "Seek first my kingdom". Look at Romans 12:1. It's a supporting verse. He said, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship".
Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. The imagery is a little blind to us. We're not involved in a sacrificial system in any way any longer, unless it's just a woke culture, but that's not what Paul's referencing. He was used to a system of animal sacrifices where they would take an animal, and slaughter the animal, and collect the blood, and then put the carcass of the animal onto the altar where it'd be consumed by fire. So that by the time the animal was placed on the altar, it was empty of any self-determination. It's life blood had been drained away. So he's using that as a metaphor. He says, "Offer yourself, not as someone void of any self-determination, but offer yourself as a living sacrifice". He said, "That is your reasonable service to the Lord". Jesus said it a little differently. He said, "Seek first my kingdom". A living sacrifice.
In Romans 8, similar idea, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you". The same Spirit that brought Jesus out of the tomb is alive within you. Why would we not yield to that? See, these verses aren't particularly significant. They don't mean much to you if you don't give much credence to the existence of evil. If you don't believe evil spirits exist, if you don't believe unclean spirits influence human beings, and behaviors, and thoughts, then you really have very little interest or very little sense of necessity in being in tune to what the Spirit of God within you might do or say. But if you'll accept by faith what the scripture says, that there is a whole kingdom of unclean spiritual forces and their attention is targeted at the people of God, then we would be beyond naive not to listen to the counsel that we're given.
When Jesus said, "Seek first my kingdom," it's because there's the voice of another kingdom that will assault your mind. And if we live in a fallen, evil world, the messaging that comes from that world system will very seldom encourage you to seek first the kingdom of God. They'll do their best to make your discontent and dissatisfied with the things of God. So we're invited to offer our bodies as living sacrifices and to recognize that the Spirit that brought Jesus from the dead is alive within you. You're not alone. So this isn't just an expression of self-will, or self-determination, or a new expression of self-discipline. It's not like a new diet routine. It's identifying there's a conflict in the earth. There's a battle that takes place beyond my physical body, beyond my five senses. That's not illogical. It's not irrational. It's not some new idea. It's not the lunatic fringe.
If you'll believe in a virus and you won't believe in the Spirit of God, you need to consider very carefully why you consider yourself a Christ follower. Why would you trust God with your eternity if you didn't believe he could make a difference in time? Makes no sense to me. And if we've been so fortunate that you can think you can manage your own journey through time, you've lived a privileged life. But I can say with a good deal of confidence there are circumstances that will beset you or somebody you care about that you can't control, and you'll want to know there is a God and that you can have a relationship with him. The Bible talks to us about a battle of angels. I like to think about the angels.
I brought you a passage from the book of Revelation, chapter 12. I wanted to start here because it's New Testament. Some of you prefer that as if there's a higher value in the New Testament. You understand that's not a biblical model, right? That will get you in the weeds. That's another lesson. Revelation 12, and verse 7, "There was war in heaven". My opinion, this is still in front of us, but, "There was war in heaven. And Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. And he wasn't strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. And the great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him".
John, the disciple closest to Jesus, has a vision, and a part of that is he sees the heavens, and he's back and forth between what's happening in earth and what's happening in heaven. And he sees this war in heaven and it's very clear in what he's watching and what he relates to us that the war in heaven has a physical impact upon the earth. Now, you can say, "I don't believe that," but you're ignoring the counsel of scripture. Or you can prefer some metaphorical interpretation or something that's illustrative in some other way, but how do you know when to apply that and not to apply that if that becomes your method of interpretation? You know, angels are a part, I don't know that, and it seems there are pivot points in the story of scripture where there is an unusual amount of angelic activity.
Now, I don't know if that heightened angelic activity is unique to those seasons or it's simply that the narrative we have gives us, pulls the curtain back in those seasons, but we can certainly say there are pivotal times in the unfolding story of the earth where we're told there is heightened angelic activity. For instance, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was an event largely overlooked by the power structure, or the religious community, or anyone else for that matter, but the shepherds' fields outside Bethlehem were filled with the heavenly host. Glory to God in the highest, right?
I mean, it shook the shepherds' cages. Is that a, I mean, they left the sheep to go find the baby. Not normal behavior. Babies were born in Bethlehem frequently and the shepherds didn't abandon their posts, but the sky being filled with the heavenly host with a message about a Savior being born, good news for all, off they went. Heightened angelic activity. Gabriel with Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, and Gabriel with Mary, and Gabriel with Joseph, and the sky is filled. A lot of angelic activity. Contrast that to Jesus's death on the cross. It says when he died on the cross and said, "It's finished," that the sky grew dark, and there was earthquakes, and the graves split open, and some dead were raised to life again, but we don't have stories of the heavenly host.
It's almost as if heaven were told to stand down. You get to his Resurrection and there's angels sitting around the empty tomb. Don't you know they were smiling. No long faces there. "No, you know, Jesus isn't here. Sorry, Mary". I don't think that's what it was like it all, do you? So it's worth thinking about, then, if we get to the book of Revelation and there's these scenes with ten thousand upon ten thousand angels, and war in heaven, and angels unleashing judgments, and angels, I mean, it's a season when angelic activity is heightened. You need to start to think about it. You need to meditate on it. Make room in your heart for it.
I want to close today by asking you to join me in a prayer of repentance. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God. Now, I know what he said and I would tell you that that's important, that we want to do everything that Jesus said, but I also would probably have to tell you that in my life, I typically seek the solutions that I know how to get to first. If I've got a friend, if I've got the strength, if I know how to accomplish it, if I know how to organize it, I'll go to all those things that are under my influence first. If I fail in those places, then I go to the Lord. Well, I'm ignoring him. I'm not taking his counsel. He said if I would seek first his kingdom, he would bring to me what I need to live: a place to live, the clothing, the shelter, all those material needs that fill our lives. So I wanna tell him I'm sorry and I want to invite you to join me in that. Repentance is the doorway to the best things that God has for us. Let's pray:
Jesus, I thank you for the wisdom that you shared with us, for the council that you've given us. And we come today to humble ourselves and to say we're sorry for seeking first our own kingdom to establish our own excellence or our own opportunity. We didn't come to you first. Forgive us. And now we come to give you a new place, a new priority, and a new authority in all we do. In Jesus's name, amen.